At last year's BEA, Tinwood Books, a year-old, Atlanta-based press specializing in lavishly illustrated books on African-American folk artists, kicked off its publishing program with Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, a comprehensive work on the art of rural, self-taught black artists. This year the press is releasing the second volume of that critically acclaimed work and adding a new business partner: Academy Award—winning actress Jane Fonda is now a 50% owner in the firm.
William Arnett, outsider-art collector, folk-art specialist and cofounder of Tinwood Books, told PW that Fonda's investment in Tinwood "is more than a business deal. She's been deeply moved by the beauty, integrity and passion of the work of these artists."
In a telephone interview from her ranch in New Mexico, Fonda told PW she learned of Tinwood's books and editorial specialty through Jennifer Arnett, the wife of Arnett's son Paul, an art historian and Tinwood's editorial director. A longtime folk and primitive art collector, Fonda arranged to see Jennifer's father-in-law's collection of black folk art in Atlanta, "and I was hooked," she said. After Arnett organized a five-day bus tour for her through rural Alabama and Georgia to visit the homes of artists, Fonda asked to become a partner. "I was impressed with his passion and knowledge of this work," said Fonda. "I feel I'm supposed to do this."
Fonda told PW that she might suggest books for the firm and was particularly interested in the works of artists Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley, "African-American men who seem to have a feminist sensibility. But Arnett has lots of ideas for books and shows. I'm a financial partner. I'll help with the book launch and publicity, and with encouragement. They don't need me picking printers and paper."
Tinwood will publish four to six books a year focused on "creative works by African-American artists in every discipline—in particular, self-taught rural artists," said Gary Chassman, Tinwood publisher. The first volume of Souls Grown Deep, priced at $100, has sold about 6,000 copies to date, said Chassman. In October the house will mark the publication of the second volume of Souls Grown Deep with a 10,000-copy first printing and a party hosted by Fonda in New York City.